Frost heave and frost heaving-induced pressure under various restraints and thermal gradients during the coupled thermal–hydro processes in freezing soil

  • Yukun Ji
  • Guoqing ZhouEmail author
  • Matthew R. Hall
Original Paper


Studies of frost heaving-induced pressure (FHIP) have been gaining increasing attention for applications using the freezing method to strengthen soils. This paper demonstrates a technique for measuring the FHIP when heaving is constrained. A series of freezing tests were conducted under various restrained stiffnesses and associated with a thermal gradient. The evolution of frost heave and the FHIP during coupled hydro–thermal interaction were examined. From this study, it was found that restraint prevents frost heave by impeding formation of the ice lens. A thermal gradient is a necessary condition for both water flow and frost heave, since pore water solidifies into ice and thus causes suction (negative pore water pressure) at the base of the ice lens. The pore structure and flow properties of freezing soil vary, since ice crystals progressively block the flow of water, whilst discontinuous ice lenses result in variation of water distributions. The increase of the FHIP appeared to cease when the ice pressure reached a maximum value, based on the microscopic analysis of equivalent water pressure. Moreover, the stable stage for the FHIP lagged behind the stabilization temperature. A macroscopic analysis of the different FHIPs under various different restraints was also carried out. It was found that increased restrained stiffness caused increased deformation and resulted in an increase of the observed FHIP. The coupled hydro–thermal behaviors analyzed in this study enable a better understanding of heat transfer and fluid flow in freezing granular media (soils).


Frost heave Coupled thermal-hydro processes Thermal gradient Restrained stiffness FHIP 



This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 41271096; grant no. 41672343), 111 Project (grant no. B14021), and the Newton Fund of the UK-China Research and Innovation Partnership Fund (grant no. 201603780053). We also wish to acknowledge the support of the GeoEnergy Research Centre, University of Nottingham.


  1. Bronfenbrener L, Bronfenbrener R (2010) Modeling frost heave in freezing soils. Cold Reg Sci Technol 61:43–64Google Scholar
  2. Cheng GD, Li X (2003) Constructing the Qinghai–Tibet Railroad: new challenges to Chinese permafrost scientists. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Permafrost. A.A.BALKEMA Publishers, Tokyo, pp 131–134Google Scholar
  3. Gilpin RR (1979) A model of the “liquid-like” layer between ice and a substrate with applications to wire regelation and particle migration. J Colloid Interf Sci 68(2):235–251Google Scholar
  4. Gilpin RR (1980) A model for the prediction of ice lensing and frost heave in soils. Water Resour Res 16(5):918–930Google Scholar
  5. Harlan RL (1973) Analysis of coupled heat–fluid transport in partially frozen soil. Water Resour Res 9(5):1314–1323Google Scholar
  6. Hopke SW (1980) A model for frost heave including overburden. Cold Reg Sci Technol 3(2):111–127Google Scholar
  7. Hendry MT, Onwude LU, Sego DC (2016) A laboratory investigation of the frost heave susceptibility of fine-grained soil generated from the abrasion of a diorite aggregate. Cold Reg Sci Technol 123:91–98Google Scholar
  8. Ji YK, Zhou GQ, Zhou Y, Matthew RH, Zhao XD, Mo PQ (2018) A separate-ice based solution for frost heaving-induced pressure during coupled thermal-hydro-mechanical processes in freezing soils. Cold Reg Sci Technol 147:22–33Google Scholar
  9. Konrad JM, Morgenstern NR (1982) Effects of applied pressure on freezing soils. Can Geotech J 19(4):494–505Google Scholar
  10. Konrad JM (1994) 16th Canadian Geotechnical Colloquium—frost heave in soils—concepts and engineering. Can Geotech J 31(2):223–245Google Scholar
  11. Lai YM, Wu H, Wu ZW, Liu SY, Den XJ (2000) Analytical viscoelastic solution for frost force in cold-region tunnels. Cold Reg Sci Technol 31(3):227–234Google Scholar
  12. Lai YM, Pei WS, Zhang MY, Zhou JZ (2014) Study on theory model of hydro-thermal–mechanical interaction process in saturated freezing silty soil. Int J Heat Mass Tran 78:805–819Google Scholar
  13. Ma MY, Cheng Y (2007) Development and prospects of research on freezing pressure of frozen shaft in deep thick alluvium. Journal of Anhui Institute of Architecture and Industry 15(5):8–12 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  14. Nixon JF (1991) Discrete ice lens theory for frost heave in soil. Can Geotech J 28(6):843–859Google Scholar
  15. Oliphant JL, Tice AR, Nakano Y (1983) Water migration due to a temperature gradient in frozen soil. In Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Permafrost. Fairbanks, AK, pp 951–956Google Scholar
  16. O’Neill K, Miller RD (1985) Exploration of a rigid ice model of frost heave. Water Resour Res 21(3):281–296Google Scholar
  17. Palmer AC, Williams PJ (2003) Frost heave and pipeline upheaval buckling. Can Geotech J 40:1033–1038Google Scholar
  18. Rong CX (2006) A study on mechanical characteristic of frozen soil wall and shaft lining as well as their interaction mechanism in deep alluvium. PhD. Thesis, University of Science and Technology of China. Anhui, China (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  19. Sheng DC, Axelsson K, Knutsson S (1995a) Frost heave due to ice lens formation in freezing soils: 1. Theory and verification. Hydrol Res 26(2):125–146Google Scholar
  20. Sheng DC, Axelsson K, Knutsson S (1995b) Frost heave due to ice lens formation in freezing soils: 2. Field application. Hydrol Res 26(2):147–168Google Scholar
  21. Style RW, Peppin SSL (2012) The kinetics of ice-lens growth in porous media. J Fluid Mech 692(2):482–498Google Scholar
  22. Sheng DC, Zhang S, Yu ZW, Zhang JS (2013) Assessing frost susceptibility of soils using PCHeave. Cold Reg Sci Technol 95(11):27–38Google Scholar
  23. Taylor GS, Luthin JN (1978) A model for coupled heat and moisture transfer during soil freezing. Can Geotech J 15(4):548–555Google Scholar
  24. Worster MG, Wettlaufer JS (1999) The fluid mechanics of premelted liquid films. In: Shyy W, Narayanan R (Eds.) Fluid dynamics of interfaces. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 339–355.Google Scholar
  25. Wang YS, Xue LB, Cheng JP, Han T, Li JH (2009) In-situ measurement and analysis of freezing pressure of vertical shaft lining in deep alluvium. Chinese Journal of Geotechnical Engineering 31(2):207–212 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  26. Wu DY, Lai YM, Zhang MY (2017) Thermo–hydro–salt–mechanical coupled model for saturated porous media based on crystallization kinetics. Cold Reg Sci Technol 133:94–107Google Scholar
  27. Xu XY, Li HS, Qiu MG, Tao ZX (2001) Calculation of frost heave in seasonal frozen soil under piled foundation restrain condition. Journal of Harbin University of C. E. & Architecture 34(6):8–11 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  28. Xia DJ (2005) Frost heave (Ph.D. Thesis), University of Alberta, Alberta, Canada.Google Scholar
  29. Zhou Y, Zhou GQ (2012) Intermittent freezing mode to reduce frost heave in freezing soils—experiments and mechanism analysis. Can Geotech J 49(6):686–693Google Scholar
  30. Zhang S, Teng J, He Z, Liu Y, Liang S, Yao Y, Sheng D (2016) Canopy effect caused by vapour transfer in covered freezing soils. Geotechnique 66(11):927–940Google Scholar
  31. Zhang XY, Zhang MY, Lu JG, Pei WS, Yan ZR (2017) Effect of hydro-thermal behavior on the frost heave of a saturated silty clay under different applied pressures. Appl Therm Eng 117:462–467Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory for Geomechanics and Deep Underground EngineeringChina University of Mining and TechnologyXuzhouChina
  2. 2.GeoEnergy Research Centre, Faculty of EngineeringUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  3. 3.British Geological SurveyEnvironmental Science CentreNottinghamUK

Personalised recommendations